“I am 16 years old and I do not want to get married,” said Brenda Alviruez, a 16 year old adolescent, loudly when she spoke at a press conference before media and deputies of the congress, representing children from Guatemala and demanding the approval of the decree to eliminate child marriage.
After this conference, thanks to Save the Children's efforts in partnership with other Civil Society Organizations, Guatemala approved Decree 13-2017 on 17 August, eliminating the exception to marry before the age of 18.
Save the Children was part of the press conference which promoted space for child and adolescent participation and was organized to request the elimination of the exception that authorized marriage before the age of 18. “I have many dreams and goals to fulfill. I need my rights to thrive and be protected from violation. I need this exception removed," continued Brenda.
It should be noted that in 2015, Congress approved the amendment to the Civil Code to raise the minimum age for marriage to 18, which previously allowed marriage for girls aged 14 and boys aged 16, leaving an exception to the rule that a competent judge would allow girls and boys under 18 to marry.
"For many years we have not listened to children, but they have a lot to say about their rights and the possibility of developing freely," said Judge Maria Eugenia Morales, a representative of Guatemala's Supreme Court who expressed her full support of the decree to eradicate child marriage.
Further, Cindy Menchú, a girl from Quetzaltenango department, said "Today we are here because we are the voices of thousands of Guatemalan girls. We know that hundreds of girls have been forced to marry simply because a decree makes an exception without acknowledging that they may be forced to marry. Why do we truncate goals and desires of the girls and adolescents from Guatemala?”
“The children of Guatemala have goals and we have to help them to fulfill these. The power relationship that emerges from child marriage affects our rights. Why force girls to stop studying, to leave their friends and family to take on the role of being a wife, an adult, when we are not ready? Child marriage is not a girl thing. We as girls, cannot raise girls. That is why we ask the deputies to act in favor of the children and adolescents of Guatemala in order to be able to continue with our dreams, wishes and goals so to help our country.”
After this approval, Save Children in Guatemala has identified the next steps:
- Promoting the application of the decree to guarantee the rights of children and adolescents under 18 years of child and forced marriage.
- Informing the different audiences on the application and scope of the decree to contribute to the change of attitudes about child marriage.
- Promoting dialogue to raise awareness about issues that support the definition of strategies at the local level.